An international team of researchers found a pair of “super-Earth” planets orbiting a small, cool star about 100 light years away from Earth, and scientists believe one of the planets may be suitable for life.
The first planet, called LP 890-9b, was first found by NASA on a mission dedicated to search for planets orbiting nearby stars. It is around 30% larger than Earth and completes a full revolution around its star in 2.7 days, according to Belgium’s University of Liège, which published the research in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics.
The findings confirmed NASA’s initial space-based observations with ground SPECULOOS (Search for habitable Planets EClipsing ULtra-cOOl Stars) telescopes in Chile and Spain that are adept at determining planet characteristics.
However, the researchers were also able to make a discovery of their own — a second, previously undetected planet that is in the so-called “habitable zone” around its star.
That planet, LP 890-9c, is around 40% larger than Earth but takes around 8.5 days to orbit around its sun. Its orbital period and distance from the star could mean it has the potential to sustain life elements like water.
“Although this planet orbits very close to its star, at a distance about 10 times shorter than that of Mercury around our sun, the amount of stellar irradiation it receives is still low, and could allow the presence of liquid water on the planet’s surface, provided it has a sufficient atmosphere,” said Francisco Pozuelos, a co-author of the research and a researcher at the Institute of Astrophysics of Andalusia, in a release.
Because the star the planet is orbiting is more than six times smaller and has a surface temperature about half that of our sun, the planet’s closeness to the star enables it to be considered potentially habitable.
The international team said it plans to study the atmosphere of the planet and learn more about its potential compared to other planets possibly capable to sustain life.
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